Alex Andrews has co-founded a superfund that gives more wealth, support and power to women.

Alex Andrews has co-founded a superfund that gives more wealth, support and power to women.

As our studio is full of clever, passionate and hilarious (self-proclaimed) women, we feel it’s vital to celebrate and promote the great work of International Women’s Day. 

Over the course of this week, leading up to IWD, we will be featuring empowering businesswomen from a range of fields, including finance, education, health, and social enterprise. We’ve curated a list of  incredible female role models and brands who put their values at the heart of their business and shared them in a blog series, just for you. So, put those feet up, pour yourself that overdue glass of red and get ready to be inspired.

To quote Ms Minnelli, whether you like it or not, “Money makes the world go around”. So we can’t begin to change the world without changing its distribution of dollars. For millennia, society’s purse strings have been predominately held and pulled by men, so unsurprisingly our financial structures, systems and standards are designed with just this half the population in mind. Well, until now.

Welcome Alex, Verve co-founder and Head of Engagement, who’s working to strike a better balance in the world of superannuation.

Australia’s first super fund for women, by women… we’re sold! Can you tell us how and when Verve came to be?

As a group of co-founders we’ve spent much of our careers building the financial power of women, we all agreed that something needed to be done to stop women from retiring with 47% less super than men. In the lead up to the Banking Royal Commission, we were also becoming increasingly fed up by the behaviour and service of the big banks and super funds. We started dreaming of something better for women — a super-fund designed just for us gals that would invest women’s money ethically, in the world women want.

What’s the brand’s core purpose?

The core purpose of Verve is to build the financial power of women — to create the world and the wealth* women want.

*Wealth: what you value most in your life.

Who are the women behind it, their professional background and what motivated them to create it?

Our team of three co-founders have dedicated much of their careers to building the financial power of women. Christina our CEO has spent over a decade working for the United Nations improving financial inclusion across the globe. Zoe our Head of Financial Coaching is the founder of one Australia’s pioneering financial empowerment organisations for women, and me, Alex, our Head of Community Engagement is an experienced gender advocacy campaigner and background in ethical investment.

What is the Verve offering / point of difference for women?

In an industry that is 93% led by men — Verve is Australia’s first (and only) superannuation designed for women and led by women. To help build the financial power of women. How you ask? Well:

  • Verve provides services tailored for women, including free financial coaching and fee pauses for members on parental leave;
  • Invests ethically to build the world women want – including not investing in companies without a woman on the board;
  • Advocates for changes to the systems that perpetuate gender inequality, particularly Australia’s retirement system.

You also offer coaching, webinars, and meet-ups – how important do you believe education and community are in making positive change?

We know that women rise by lifting each other. We strongly believe that every woman has an experience or skill to share with another woman, we see that our role at Verve is to bring women together, to share knowledge, experience and connection. It is the power of our members and our community that is creating the real change. Verve supports this by creating opportunities for women to connect, learn and take positive action around their finances and the issues that are important to us.

What are some of the subjects the Verve Academy teaches?

We offer a six-step Money & Mindset coaching program for our members including: setting goals; creating a money management system; super-charging your super; different types of insurances and tips for how to start investing. We offer the first 3 steps for free on our website for all women. In addition to our six-step programme, we also host a range of webinars and events covering all things related to building financial power, as individuals and as a collective.

What do you find are some the most common misconceptions or myths about superannuation?

The most common misconception is that it is complicated and time-consuming to get your super sorted. In reality, in the time it takes to have a coffee break you could find any super funds you have open and consolidate them all into one account. Jump onto Verve’s free Superannuation module in the Verve Academy, and in the space of an afternoon you could completely sort your super and feel in better control of your money.

This year’s IWD theme is ‘balance for better’ – enlighten us, quite how out of balance is the gender pay gap in 2019? Are you hopeful about the way and rate it is closing?

The scales are firmly tipped against women and with only a trickle of change landing on the side of women, that rebalance is not happening fast enough. From the very first day that a graduate begins work, the average young woman will be paid $5,000 less than a man. On top of this, the reality that women undertake most of the nation’s unpaid caring work, this results in Australian women today retiring with 47% less super than men. Single women over 55 are the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness in Australia. You’d think that with all that underpayment, and all the crucial unpaid caring work undertaken by women, our retirement savings system would be designed to give women a boost up; wrong! Of the $36 billion dollars that the government spends each year on Super (through tax concessions) three-quarters of this goes to men — with the wealthiest men in our society gaining the most benefit. The system is broken and this needs to change. At Verve, we see hope in the thousands of Australians that are starting to realise how unfair the system is for women. We’re going to need to raise our voices to the rooftops if we’re to smash through the superannuation glass ceiling.

What are some of the other fundamental systemic inequalities that you are trying to counteract?

In many ways the superannuation gap between men and women is the result of the lifetime of inequalities that women face. If we are to ensure that no Australian woman, or man, retires in poverty then we need to look at: pay inequality and how to financially value caring work; the relationship between financial inequality and domestic violence; lifting the old age pension, reducing discrimination and increasing support for women of cultural and linguistic diverse backgrounds and those who identify as LGBTQI+. At Verve, we see our role as being to shine a spotlight on the myriad of inequalities, which lead to the super gap, and to support our members with financial coaching and advocacy, as best we can.

Can you talk us through your baby bump program and how it supports parents?

Women in Australia do 75% of unpaid domestic labour and child rearing in Australia, this time out of the paid workforce impacts retirement savings outcomes and for many women their super never recovers.

Through the Baby Bump initiative Verve provides a fee rebate to members of any gender who take time off work, during the first 12 months after giving birth or adopting a child. This is Verve’s way of challenging form of systemic gender inequality. It’s a baby step, but an important step in helping address the super gap.

When our members tell us that they are taking parental leave, we also offer to contact their employer to ask that their employer continues to pay superannuation. Ultimately, we need companies and the Government to better understand and support parents who take time out of the workforce.

Do you feel as a society, we’re increasingly spending – and investing – in line with our values? If so, what do you attribute the change to? And how do we continue to shift the world this way?

The great news is that in Australia and across much of the world, people are waking up to the impact that they can create by using their money. Across Australia we’re seeing Keep Cups popping into the hands of morning coffee drinkers; people increasingly concerned about where their clothes are made and how much workers are getting paid.

At the same time, the world is waking up to the power that we have direct control in the world we invest in through our superannuation. These are real dollars, having a real impact. This impact has the potential to heal or harm the world and the choice is in your hands. Most Australians want their superannuation invested ethically which is great progress, but sadly most Australians still have their money invested in: guns and weapons of war; gambling; fossil fuels; and other destructive industries.

Verve was created to give everyday Australian women with the opportunity to invest money together and to take stand against destructive industries. Together, we are saying we will only invest in the world we want to build for future generations. That’s an inspiring message that any woman can be part of. Together we hold over $1 Trillion in super — that’s a real superpower!

What does and doesn’t Verve invest in? And why?

At Verve we invest in companies that are building a brighter world, and the world that women want to retire in. These industries include: healthcare, renewable energy, technology, sustainable food production, and many more great industries.

We have an extensive ethical screen that includes excluding invests in industries like: guns and weapons of war, fossil fuels, companies that pollute and harm the environment, industries that create social harm like gambling and tobacco. We also don’t invest in companies without a woman on the board or companies that abuse women or other workers in their supply chains. For more information check out our website.

How else does Verve pay it forward to women across the world?

When a woman joins Verve Super, we make a donation to the not for profit organisation Good Return. Good Return, provides financial literacy training, skills training and business development support to women living in poverty in South East Asia. In this way, every new member of Verve, regardless of their wealth, pays it forward and supports other women.

How easy is it for employers to get on board?

Verve partners with employers to provide superannuation services and financial coaching to their employees. We love working with employers that are looking to elevate and amplify the issues that impact women. Spending time in these workplaces is what we love most. If you have a community, workplace or group that could use a little financial coaching please get in touch at hello@vervesuper.com.au.

And what about employees – or sole traders – wanting to collate and move super funds?

It’s easy, when you join Verve we match your details with a database to help you track down any super funds you have open. From here, you’re just a tick box away from having your super sorted and in your Verve account. *Super* simple.

Bringing all of your super funds together into one account can be a great way to minimise fees. Most new members have around 4 super funds, that means they’ve been paying 4 times the fees and sometimes multiple sets of insurance premiums.

Can men who believe in your cause join too?

It doesn’t matter how you identify — man, woman, non-binary – if you support our mission, you’re welcome to join! We just make it clear that everything we do is designed to serve women.

What are you excited about for the future?

A world where women are truly equal. When we take a moment to imagine what that world would look like and feel like, how resources on earth would be used and shared, how the feminine could be equally valued, it’s hard not to get goosebumps.

To send us off – what’s q fun financial fact we should know about the undeniable value of women in power…

Here’s one I’m sure you wouldn’t know. Superannuation funds with 30% of women in leadership have outperformed male-dominated funds by $7 billion over the past three years 😉

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